1780
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Complaint of Mrs. —.

Public Advertiser (7 December 1780).

Anonymous


Six double-quatrain stanzas, not signed. In this variation on the pastoral ballad, the lover's complaint is shifted out of pastoral into something like an allegorical register. The husband of Mrs. — is evidently a sailor; the wife appeals to the gods to protect her "dear Johnny from harm," and then expresses her alarm that he will prove inconstant. The inconsistency of her own feelings towards her husband then appears in a ballad address to the audience: "All you my Acquaintance so near, | Who are sorry to know my hard Fate, | Whatever I suffer, forbear, | Forbear to reproach my dear Mate." In the concluding stanza Jove intervenes, swearing "by Styx she no more shou'd lament, | But conquer the Heart that she lov'd."



In a comfortless Chamber was laid,
A Wife full of Sorrow and Grief;
While a Pillow supported her Head,
From Heav'n she implored some Relief.
The Gods who stood list'ning by,
With Complacence gave Ear to her Moan,
As sadly complaining she cry'd,
I fear my dear Johnny is gone.

Why did I consent he shou'd brave
The Tempests and Battles for Gain,
Or trust that the boist'rous Wave
Wou'd bear him safe over the Main:
When Thousands are laid in the Deep,
While their Consorts are left in Despair,
The Fate of their Husbands to weep,
And with Madness and Shrieks fill the Air.

Ye Powers who know my fond Heart,
Protect my dear Johnny from Harm,
From his Breast turn aside every Dart,
Calm the Winds and the Seas with thy Arm,
In Safety return the brave Youth,
To his Helen convey him with Speed,
In Reward for her Sufferings and Truth,
The mutual his Love let her read.

Yet how foolish am I to deceive,
With the Hopes of such Bliss, my poor Heart;
Or how can I vainly believe
He designs I shou'd share any Part:
While he after Variety roves,
And is fond of each Songstress he hears,
No Matter if she whom he loves
Be Widow, or Wife, or in Years.

All you my Acquaintance so near,
Who are sorry to know my hard Fate,
Whatever I suffer, forbear,
Forbear to reproach my dear Mate:
For his Heart is so fickly form'd,
That to one he can never be true;
Then beware, for howe'er you're adorn'd,
You'll ne'er fix him while one there is new.

Great Jove, when he heard her Complaint,
With Pity his Godhead was mov'd,
Swore by Styx she no more shou'd lament,
But conquer the Heart that she lov'd.
No more shall she sigh nor complain,
That her Johnny is fickle and frail,
Or accuse him of Slights or Disdain,
For her Truth over all shall prevail.

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